A Tearoom In Venice

TEAROOM VENICE.jpg

A Tearoom In Venice

A Novel by Robert Lewis Heron.

 

Love can take many forms. A love for food, a special place, a work of art, and even a person. Everyone’s choices are unique. However, occasionally something so strong, so profound can change the course of life itself. Some are lucky enough to experience a moment of sheer perfection. The moment someone enters your life and things change for ever.

Copyright © 2016 by Robert Lewis Heron. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.

Chapter 1

Glasgow, Scotland.

 

Carson Cranston walks briskly along a wet windswept Sauchiehall Street, climbs two steps, and enters Miss Cranston’s Willow Tearooms. He heads straight for the kitchen. He is late again, and patrons are already placing orders for morning ‘tea and scones’.

* * *

At 7:30 a.m. in the storeroom of the Cipriani Gelato Café, Italian student, Violetta Cipriani, stacks boxes of dried fruit, and stretching for the upper shelf, fumbles a bag of dried peaches. They fall to her side, and into the arms of her uncle, Alfredo Cipriani.

* * *

Carson stands transfixed by the dough-maker, mesmerized by its twisting seesaw motion of thick white dough, folding over and over against a steel bowl. He daydreams about classmates at the Scottish Culinary School, his tutor telling him, 'and lad never forget the currants. Can’t have scones without currents. And, remember lad always beat eggs until frothy, and stir in melted butter and milk. Important lad, very important. Capiche?'

Fifteen minutes in a preheated oven. Serve warm. Thousands, no, tens of thousands of Scottish scones baked in a lifetime. A thousand times fifteen minutes in a preheated oven is?

Carson lifts his head from his current and dough mix, turns to Mary, a small blonde waitress intent in sticking ‘bobby-pins’ in her mousy brown hair, and asks, ”Mary, if I do nothing but bake scones for eight hours a day, I’d have baked fifteen thousand scones in a month. Jesus. Fifteen thousand in a month. Christ.”

Mary winces at one bobby-pin going in too far. “I’m impressed, Carson,” said Mary. “Get on with it then. We’ve customers waiting.”

One might say twenty-two is far too early for anyone to be philosophizing about the meaning of life in the context of baking scones.  How easy to fall into the trap of repetitive life losing, life wasting, life sucking moments one Scottish scone at a time. For this twenty-two year old, the foreseeable future is scones. Well for the next couple of hours anyway. For in exactly four hours something magical is going to happen to Carson. Magical in that for the rest of his life he will forever remember the exact moment he discovered the true meaning of the word, love.

* * *

At 7:31 a.m., Alfredo Cipriani catches falling peaches with one hand steadying Violetta with his other. “Bravo, bravo, Violetta. Have you come here to Glasgow from Italy to bankrupt me or help me?”

“Sorry, uncle. But it’s only peaches.”

“Mama mia, yes peaches this time. Next time maybe eggs. Eggs is expensive. I need my eggs. Don’t drop my eggs.”

As the newest staff member of Cipriani’s Gelato Café, Violetta felt unappreciated. A career as a shop assistant in one of Glasgow’s most prestigious Gelato cafés was not her dream. The dream of a little girl from the Umbrian hill town of Geppa, a farming community with a population of nine, appeared to be on hold. A dream of one day singing an opera. Singing like Maria Callas in front of royalty, in grand opera houses around the world. However, not today. Today she stacked boxes of dried fruit in her uncle’s café overlooking Glasgow’s prestigious George Square.

* * *

Carson is about to discover, as with most things in life, the unexpected has a tendency to sneak up on you— a metal sauce pan crashing to the floor, ice cold water hitting you in a shower, or, as in Carson Cranston’s case the moment life, realigns in a way few have the good fortune to experience.

No one can explain a world of universal coincidences. Being in the right place at the right time, kismet, all one big mystery. For Carson makes a simple decision to buy a peach sorbet. So what’s odd about that? Nothing really, other than it is a cold, wet, grey day in the heart of Glasgow, and people buying cold sorbet on such a day are few indeed. I would say that Carson is unique on this day, time, and location for making a simple decision to buy a peach gelato as opposed to a warm cup of tea, or hot bowl of soup. Carson’s odd compulsion is about to change lives forever.

Carson is down town on an important mission. To collect an engagement ring for his girlfriend, Fiona.  That’s right, Carson is about to ask someone to spend the rest of their life with him. Possibly have children, share a life of unforeseen highs and lows, twists and turns, happy times and not so happy times. They are childhood friends, and now sweethearts.

Through a long friendship between parents, Carson and Fiona have spent their formative years sharing birthday parties, holidays and parent anniversaries. An unavoidable friendship has led to somewhere more personal, more permanent. So, with a one carat diamond engagement ring, bought through a loan from his proud parents, tucked deep in his pocket he makes a simple choice. He decides to buy a peach gelato.

Carson approaches Cipriani’s Gelato Café entrance by hopping over two puddles, and a deft maneuver around a woman struggling to open a large blue umbrella. Although lunchtime, the café is empty, all except for a server balancing on a small stool, stretching to top off one large glass jar with bright yellow sugar coated sweets. Violetta Cipriani turns her attention to a newly arrived patron.

“Good afternoon,” said Violetta.” How can I help you?”

Carson, intent on reading the large menu displayed above and behind Violetta, has not yet made eye contact.

“Sorry,” said Carson. “I’m miles away. A peach gelato, please.”

Violetta turns from Carson to prepare his cone. Carson gazes around the empty café thinking of tonight and what he would say to Fiona before presenting her with the ring.

“And why are you miles away?” Violetta asked.

“I’m getting engaged. Tonight is the official thing. Ring and stuff. You know.”

“Congratulations,” she said topping off the cone, but still with her back turned to him.

“Thanks.”

“That will be one pound fifty pence please,” she said.

Violetta’s turn, and her deft placing of his cone in a plastic counter holder, coincided with Carson’s head twist towards his feet. He fumbles for money deep in the same pocket holding the ring box. He holds loose change and one red ring box in his left hand, places the box on the counter, and picks out some coins.

She turns to her till as Carson picks up his peach gelato, and then time seems to vanish. As she turns back their eyes met and Carson’s life, at this exact moment, would never be the same.

Slowly, Carson twists his cone between sticky fingers watching rivulets of melting cream drop to the floor. The moment is more important than the promise of the taste. The taste of the best peach gelato in Glasgow invented by Alfredo Cipriani, owner of the best Gelato Café in Scotland. Five egg yolks, half cup of sugar, two and a half cups of cooking cream. Heat. Beat. Cool. Add peach puree, and his secret ingredient, and voila, Cipriani peach sorbet is born.

A moment to remember. A moment for eternity. But not for the sorbet, the moment is the moment few people are lucky enough to experience. The unique moment when life, the universe, and everything, through all time, align and make complete sense. They have become one. They have become true love.

Carson is the solitary patron in the gelato café. Smiling, barely breathing, and offers up thanks to the gods for giving him the idea to buy a gelato on a wet, blustery, grey day in the heart of Glasgow. Here where an innovative approach to making peach gelato has created one everlasting memory. A memory to cherish. A memory for eternity.

 “Are you okay?”  Violetta said, “because your gelato is melting.”

Carson stood mesmerized by her beauty. Her lips moving, smiling at him. “Sorry for the mess. Sorry. Didn’t mean to make a mess. Sorry.”

“Don’t worry. It’s only gelato. Buon appetite.”

Her beauty caught his breath. Not the soft focus beauty you see in front page spreads of glossy magazines, or perfume commercials. But, the true beauty of Vermeer’s ‘Girl with the Pearl Earring’, or Da Vinci’s ‘Mona Lisa’.

Carson turns to leave, whispers ‘sorry’, and through habit, wipes his gelato stained hand through his ginger hair. A Scottish trait of hair color passed down through many generations. Outside, he puts out his sticky finger to press a button on the pedestrian crossing and can’t remember getting to the crossing. Time has gone a.w.o.l.. He’s entering The Cranston Tearooms, a twenty minute walk, but can’t remember his walk. The gelato has vanished, he’s holding a soggy cone. What did it taste like? He can’t remember eating it.

“Carson it’s ten after five,” said Isabel, the shop manager and his aunt. ”You can stop making the scones. I think you have enough. Seal them for tomorrow.”

Carson stood facing six trays of perfectly made current scones and could not remember baking them.

“Sorry, Isabel,” said Carson. “My mind was a million miles away. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

Isabel watched him hang his white apron and said, “Not tomorrow Carson, tonight. Surely you have not forgotten about tonight? The party. Your engagement party.”

All afternoon he had thought of only the café, and Violetta. After picking up Fiona and his engraved engagement rings, he had popped in for his favorite peach gelato.

“Shit. The ring? Where’s the ring?” said Carson fumbling in his pocket.

“Carson. You are joking, right?” said Isabel.

“No. The ring. Gelato. The café. I’ve left it in the gelato café.”

 

Violetta smiles at the sight of Carson racing across a wet George Square, zigzagging between shoppers and office workers, and unsuccessfully attempting to avoid splashing strangers.

“Sorry. Oops sorry. My fault. Sorry,” puffed Carson in his panic filled journey to retrieve his ring before the café closes.

“Watch where you’re bloody going.”—“Mind my new coat.”—

“Bloody idiot.”—“Where’s the fire son?”—“These leggings are new on this morning.”

But Carson did not stop. Instead, he left behind a trail of discontent and arbitrary shouts of “Sorry. Oops. Sorry.”

Violetta waited. She thought he would return, and thus had not closed the café at the allotted time of 5 p.m.

A clock behind Violetta read 5:20 as Carson made his puffing and panting entrance.

—TING—

She laughed as he gulped for air. His damp orange tinged hair appeared plastered across bright red heaving cheeks.

The taste of old pennies filled his mouth. His lungs heaved.

“He...ll...o. Sorry. Give me a...minute. Ran from...Sauchie...hall Str...eet. Sorry,” said Carson doubling over and coughing.

“Take your time. No rush,” said Violetta placing the red ring box on the glass counter. “I knew you would be back. The ring. You left it.”

Carson straightened himself and walked towards Violetta.

“Phew. I’ve never run so fast. Must be a world record. Thank goodness it was all downhill.”

“It is a beautiful ring. My mother had a ring just like your one.”

“I don’t know what I would have done if it had not been here. Thank you so much.”

“You are welcome...”

“Carson. My name is Carson.”

“Well, Carson. I am Violetta and I feel a bit jealous of your fiancée. This beautiful ring. You must love her so much.”

“Yes. Love,” he said looking into her brown eyes. Her olive complexion and long dark hair glistened and captivated him. “Yes. Love.”

“Well, if she rejects your proposal tonight. Feel free to return. I love diamonds,” she said with a smile and a wink.

Carson, still red from his efforts, could feel something strange. The redness of embarrassment. He did not want to leave, but stay and talk.

“Well good luck tonight,” she said. “One lucky girl.”

“Sure, and thanks again for keeping my ring safe.”

“You’re welcome. Ciao.”

Carson turned and left the café.

—TING—

Violetta watched him stroll across George Square and towards the railway station. She remembered her mother allowing her to try on her ring. She remembered playing in the fields around Geppa. She remembered her mother's tears when she had lost her ring, and how their village searched grasses, and hedges, and stonewalls. The diamond ring remained lost. A tear ran down her cheek as Carson vanished within the commuters of Queens Street Station.

“Sorry, mama,” whispered Violetta.